The plain, unadorned truth about Stonehenge and its neighbours, Durrington Walls and Silbury Hill – not for the faint-hearted…

I’ve been trying to write this post for some days, but have recoiled from the task. It’s not as if I have not put these ideas into the public domain already. I have – under my ‘science buzz’ blog.  But I did not want a 3 year old project that focuses on current science to be sullied with the dark thoughts I have entertained regarding Stonehenge, based on recent research, notably at the nearby Neolithic settlement of Durrington Walls, and, further afield, Silbury Hill. That’s why I decided to spin off this topic to a specialist blog – this one – to keep it quarantined, so to speak from my general science interests.

But days have passed, and I still find it difficult to re-articulate and further develop views already expressed.

Strategy: I will start with my theory of what happened over some 100 years to  produce Silbury Hill. I shall then follow a train of thought that leads back to Woodhenge, Durrington Walls and Stonehenge. It is not a attractive story, which is why I hesitate to relate it. But for those who want truth and understanding, it could explain why Stonehenge, even to this day, still looks so sinister. It was sinister. It was a place which helped our ancestors make the difficult changeover  from the light side of pastoral living (late spring and summer) to the dark side of survival (late autumn and early spring). Yes, I ‘m referring to a survival diet that kept folk alive during the short winter days when there was no growth of crops, when the surrounding woodland was bare of foliage, making hunting for game more difficult…

More later…. when I can summon up the motivation to tell it the way it WAS …  4,500 years ago….




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Why was Stonehenge constructed with those woodwork joints (mortise and tenon; tongue in groove)?

Notice anything unusual about that upright?

Here is the first real post on this, my new Stonehenge/Silbury site – not counting the Hello World preliminary supplied by the WordPress host. It takes a close look at a detail regarding Stonehenge – one that is both at first sight practical and mundane,  yet baffling at the same time. I then use that detail to prise open what I believe to be the answer to the Stonehenge/Silbury enigmas – why were they built? Why go to so much trouble when, 5000 years later, archaeologists and historians are still asking what they were for?

Look first at the picture below.

It shows one of the upright sarsen stones which originally supported a lintel (the latter now next to it on the ground).  Notice the hump on top.

It is in fact the tenon of a mortise and tenon joint, the mortise being in the fallen lintel. Someone has handily provided a diagram to show the location of the two components of the joint – designed to locate one on the other to ‘tie’ the two together.

The two red circles show the position of the mortise (lower left) and tenon (top) respectively

But that’s not all. In addition to a mortise and tenon joint, the upright and lintel were interlocked by a second tongue in groove joint. Here’s a diagram showing this remarkable belt-and-braces arrangement, looking for all the world like something out of a woodwork class, yet laboriously fashioned using stone tools in the late Neolithic (pre-Bronze age).

Two mortise and tenon joints AND a tongue in groove (just to be on the safe side)…

The purpose of such joints is obvious where furniture is concerned. They allow a chair, table etc to support a weight without collapsing. But why the need to interlock the components of a heavy self-supporting structure like Stonehenge? Would not the force of gravity alone be sufficient to keep the arch-like trilithon arrangement of two uprights and a lintel crosspiece intact? Not even a hurricane could blow it down, surely?  Or even an infrequent earth tremor? What could possibly dislodge that mighty lintel, given that it is several metres high, towering above its builders, and weighing some tens of tons?

Answer? The doubly-secured lintel was to prevent it being detached by the ever-present  Enemy, who, arriving in large numbers, maybe at the dead of night, might come equipped with ropes, levers etc and attempt to dislodge those lintels, to send them crashing to the ground.

Why would the Enemy be so determined it its mission to destroy the crosspieces of Stonehenge?  Could it be that the circle of standing stones that we call Stonehenge came to represent a symbol of the awesome power of its builders over the nearby Enemy. Where the latter was concerned, did that circle of stones, looking somewhat sinister even to modern eyes,  represent something else – like summary execution, and a humiliating and highly visible fate to follow – one in which those lintel crosspieces played a key role?

So who was the Enemy? And why was Stonehenge a prime target for raiding parties, and accordingly designed to resist being torn down? Those questions will be the subject of my next posting

Further reading on those mortise and tenon joints

 Update April 22, 2016 (4 years on!)

I think I’ve sussed it out. Shame that all my text (imprudently composed online) disappeared when I hit the Publish button! Just as well that a picture is worth a 1000 words. Here’s the schematic I made to accompany the posting:

new trilithon 1 aligned plus mound penultimate for blog

See the new posting for a longer-than-usual caption to the above, essentially a Band-Aid operation. I’ll try restoring the full posting in easy stages, though that may take a few days.


Update: Jan 28 2018 (!)  Have just received a new comment (approved), but it’s not displaying correctly as yet under ‘Recent Comments’. Hopefully the problem will sort itself soon.

Here, belt and braces, is the comment from Raymond Nicolle:


I am biased because, in 1967, I personally saw a “flying saucer” in broad daylight come out of a cloud formation, turn, bank, and fly straight up in the air and disappear. So that makes me biased. I find it hard to believe that my ancestors, dressed in skins and with deer horns and stone clubs, created the carved stone parts of Stonehenge. The creation of mortise and tenons alone out of stone harder than granite boggle the mind let alone tongue and groove construction. My ancestors were too busy finding food, procreating and fighting off neighbours…in other words, just surviving. To my mind, the constructors of the granite and dolomite parts of Stonehenge were visitors to Earth who wanted to leave proof of their visitation. They wanted the construction to last for centuries and stand as a signal to any other visitors that “they were here”. They did what I would have done…leave a huge natural edifice and carry on exploring the universe.



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Hello world!

My site banner

  Left: Woodhenge (artist’s impression)

Centre: its more durable successor Stonehenge, May 2012 with rape crop (yellow) in background 

Right: Silbury Hill, that enigmatic Neolithic man-made mound some 17 miles (27 km) distant from Stonehenge that has so far defied explanation – as indeed has Stonehenge.

Do not despair, dear reader: I believe this latest blog of mine provides for the first time an explanation that links Stonehenge, its predecessor Woodhenge, the adjacent Neolithic settlement of Durrington Walls  and even the more distant Silbury Hill into a single consistent all-embracing theory.

Warning: some of it will not make pleasant reading to those of finer sensibilities. But Neolithic folk – in transition from a hunter-gatherer to an initially precarious agrarian existence – could not afford to have finer sensibilities,  not if they wanted to keep themselves and their families fed,  especially through the winter months.

I propose that the arrival of the winter solstice –  detected by the alignment of Woodhenge and, later, Stonehenge – was the signal for the original inhabitants of Woodhenge/Stonehenge some 4000 -5000 years ago to switch to a different dietary mode.

It’s the details of that diet that may turn some stomachs, but which I, as a (hopefully) detached scientist , now retired,  intend to explore in some details on this specialist blog. It’s by way of a spin-off from three earlier postings on my science buzz site.

Accompanying the unusual winter diet were legitimising, indeed sanctifying rituals that honoured the deceased, while ensuring that at least part of their mortal remains did not go to waste.  This blog will delve into the details of what might be described euphemistically as Neolithic recycling technology, and the way in which it was integrated in to religious life, elevating a dietary practice to a spiritual plane, if only as a practical and phlegmatic means of overcoming inevitable reservations re its propriety.

Colin Berry (aka sciencebod)

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